Gunman Kills Woman, Infant In Phnom Penh

A 30-year-old woman and her 11-month-old nephew were murdered at their home in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district Monday evening when a gunman shot the female victim 14 times and then discharged a single bullet into the head of the infant.

Eng Sorphea, police chief of the municipal serious crime bureau, said the shooting occurred around 5:30 p.m. after security guards at the Pochentong New Town housing complex in Choam Chao commune—a block of identical white-washed shophouses—had left for the day.

Tith Theara, a manager at Canadia Bank’s branch in the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, was unlocking her front door when an unknown assailant approached her and opened fire with a handgun. During the shooting, Tith Somalen, 35, a former wedding party singer and mother of the dead infant, was shot once in her thigh and is still receiving treatment at a local private clinic.

“Tith Theara was shot 14 times. Tith Somalen was shot once in her thigh and is still receiving treatment at a local private clinic.

“Tith Theara was shot 14 times. Tith Somalen was shot once in her thigh, and her son was shot in the head,” Mr. Sorphea said.

“Formal police reports show that there was only one perpetrator, although some neighbors claimed that there were two perpetrators at the scene.”

National police spokesman Lieutenant General Kirth Chan­tharith said that authorities have ruled out robbery as a motive in the case and that preliminary investigations led them to believe that the intended victim was actually supposed to be Ms. Somalen and not her sister.

Lt. Gen. Chantharith also said Ms. Somalen was the mistress of a married man from Stung Treng province and that police were looking into the possibility that Ms. Somalen’s relationship could have provoked a revenge attack.

“The information that the police get is that she has a boyfriend, or perhaps she is in love with a man in Stung Treng province,” Lt. Gen. Chantharith said. “We have information that the man over there is married.”

Outside the family’s home Tuesday, neighbors said that they had seen the suspect loitering around their neighborhood for the past few days, observing the daily routine of Tith Theara and her sister.

A 25-year-old resident in the housing complex, who declined to provide her name for fear of her safety, said she had spotted the suspect on the day of the shooting at around 4 p.m. She said that he was dressed in a striped shirt and was wearing a baseball cap. She also said the perpetrator was with another man on a black Honda Dream motorcycle.

“I was very scared when I heard the shooting and I ran into my house,” she said. “I am really scared because the guy has seen me a lot—I’m often sitting outside my house or sweeping the outside area.”

“I always see the boy playing with toy cars on the street almost every morning,” she said of the 11-month-old victim.

Other witnesses at the scene, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they saw the gunman escape on foot after the shootings.

Family members and colleagues of Tith Theara, who had gathered at the victim’s home for a funeral ceremony yesterday, expressed their disbelief at the murder and were equally mystified by the killer’s motives.

“She was a nice person and it’s good to work with such a happy person. She was also very talkative,” said Khov Sokha, 34, who is a manager at another Canadia Bank branch and had worked with Tith Theara for four years. “We don’t know about the reasons for what happened.”

Tith Theara’s husband, Ouk Chip Phal, 29, said they had been married for about five years and have a 2-year-old daughter.

“My wife does not have any problems with people,” Mr. Chip Phal said, adding that he was in a meeting when he heard the news.

“How could I know [the reasons for the shooting]? I just don’t know,” he said.

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